Monday, April 18, 2016

Tips for Buying and Breaking In Birkenstocks

I recently jumped on the Birkenstock bandwagon ~ and I'm so glad I did! I'd been dying to buy Birkenstocks for months, and about two weeks ago, I finally had a pair waiting for me in my mailbox. As a proud new Birkenstock owner who's just learned the ropes, allow me to share my recommendations for buying and breaking in a pair of Birks.

Tips for Buying Birkenstocks

Try them on in person.
I ordered my Birks online, but in order to figure out what size I needed, I first went to Von Maur to try some on in person. I'm so glad I did, because, since I normally wear a size 7.5, I assumed I would need a 38 in Birks (the European equivalent of a 7.5). However, when I tried them on in person, a 37 (which is equivalent to a 6.5) fit much better. So make sure you try some Birks on before making a purchase ~ you may need to order them a size down.

If you need a narrow or wide size...
I have very narrow feet, so I knew I would need a 37 Narrow in Birkenstocks. (This was another benefit of trying Birks on in person ~ I realized that a regular wouldn't be the end of the world for my feet, but that a narrow would certainly be better.) Unfortunately most stores that sell Birkenstocks do not carry them in narrow or wide, but only regular. However, you can find those special sizes on Amazon and Zappos! (I ended up ordering mine from Amazon.) So if you need Birks in a narrow or a wide, look no further!

Tips for Breaking In Birkenstocks

Wear them a little bit each day.
As comfortable as Birkenstocks are, they do take time to break in ~ i.e. they are not comfortable right away! I recommend wearing your brand new Birks for a short amount of time each day, such as an hour or two. Avoid wearing them for prolonged periods of walking, and take them off as soon as they start to hurt. I've been keeping a spare pair of sandals with me so that I can change shoes when/if I need a break from my Birks (which has been lifesaving at times, haha). As your Birks break in more and more, you'll be able to wear them for longer and longer amounts of time, until you can wear them for as long as your heart desires.

Wear band-aids.
Your new Birks are likely going to give you blisters at first ~ for me, I wound up with blisters on the arches of my feet. Don't be afraid to wear band-aids on the spots where they tend to rub or hurt the most ~ it makes a world of difference! Eventually you'll break in your Birks to the point where you no longer need band-aids. (I'm almost to that point ~ yay!)

Now for Some Birkenstock Lovin'

Just to tell you a little bit about my beloved new Birks:

Style: Mayari
Color: Mocha
Size: 37 N
Price: $95

I cringed a bit when I first found out how much Birkenstocks cost ~ and I think $95 is the most I've ever spent on a single wardrobe item in my life. However, I decided that it's worth it to invest in supportive, good-quality shoes. I have flat feet, and with the amount of walking I do at school, flat, flimsy sandals just don't cut it anymore. So I finally bit the bullet and purchased Birkenstocks ~ and so far, they are worth every penny. I'm sure I'll only come to love them more as time goes on!

Bottom line: Birkenstocks are super worth the money, and I love mine!

Do you have Birkenstocks? What do you love about them?

Sincerely,
~Stephanie

Friday, April 15, 2016

On Being Broken


It was one of those dark nights when the tears were coming and they didn't stop. They ran down my face in a seemingly endless stream of confusion and heartache. I felt like my heart was breaking, and I didn't even really know why.

Sometimes we feel broken. Because we are broken. We are fallen human beings with fragile hearts that break easily, and sometimes without a clear reason. Our hearts can grow faint, become overwhelmed, and ache.

It was the culmination of an emotionally taxing week, and maybe even an emotionally taxing semester overall. I had to have a tough conversation with a friend that week, one that I knew would hurt her feelings ~ which was enough to hurt my feelings just as much. Tough conversations are not my forte. 

Then something unrelated happened, the details of which stirred up old feelings inside of me as well as new feelings that I didn't know how to process. It made me feel sick to my stomach, then it made me mad, then it made me hurt and my heart ache.

Then I found out that the boyfriend of one of my best friends broke up with her unexpectedly ~ the boyfriend she hoped she would marry. I cried a little, but only a fraction of the amount that she probably cried. I knew how much her heart was hurting, and it made my own heart hurt.

All of these things added up together, with past or underlying stresses mixed in, resulted in a breakdown. A total of two hours of sobbing. An emotional two-hour phone call with my mom. An hour spent in the adoration chapel crying and bleeding. Utter exhaustion, physically, mentally, and emotionally, by the end of the night. Intentionally missing my morning class so that I could just sleep. Eyes that were swollen and puffy the next day, and wondered if they had more tears yet to cry.

One Scripture verse has come up multiple times for me throughout this last week and has become my prayer lately. Psalm 61:2, which says, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

Sometimes our hearts just break, and the tears just flow. Sometimes we don't know why; sometimes we know exactly why. But either way, our fragile hearts can ache so easily and so often, and it can be too much for us to bear. In these instances, we must give our hearts and all their broken pieces to God. He knows our hearts through and through, and is the only one truly capable of satisfying them and making them whole.

So if your heart is aching, let it ache. It's okay to hurt and to cry and to be broken. But remember to go to the Lord in your brokenness and let Him piece you back together and speak peace to your heart. In our weakness, He is our strength.

Sincerely,
~Stephanie

Monday, April 11, 2016

7 Websites Every College Student Should Use

When it comes to studying and writing papers, we college students could use all the help we can get. Thankfully, with technology and the internet at our fingertips (literally), it's easy to find websites that can make our homework sessions more effective and efficient. I've compiled a list of my go-to websites for studying, researching, and paper-writing, all of which never fail to help me out, in hopes that you'll benefit from them too.


Dictionary.com
Not sure of the exact meaning of a word? Dictionary.com is my go-to website when writing a paper or when I come across a word I don't know in my readings. It's perfect for a quick look-up of the definition of a word.

Thesaurus.com
I don't think I get through one single paper without using Thesaurus.com! If you find yourself using the same word over and over again and in need of a different word to express it, look no further: this website is excellent for finding synonyms.

Google Drive
I write and store almost all of my papers, assignments, and study guides on Google Drive. It's just as good as Microsoft Word, but what makes it even better is that it's online. This means you can access your files anytime from any device ~ a school computer, someone else's laptop, or even your phone. It also saves your work as you go ~ so you can say goodbye to losing all your unsaved changes when your computer dies unexpectedly. Furthermore, you can share Google Docs with other people to collaborate on projects or study guides, which is an awesome feature. Google Drive has come in super handy for me (I couldn't live without it), so I'm sure it will for you too!

Tomato Timer
I've written about the Pomodoro technique before, so as you know, it's a study method that I highly recommend! This webpage has a Pomodoro timer (a Tomato Timer), and I go to it whenever I use the Pomodoro method to study. If you haven't tried this technique yet, give it a shot next time you sit down for a homework session, using this handy online timer!

Bibme
Writing bibliographies can be a pain (as a literature major, I know this to be true!). Bibme is a free online bibliography and citation generator, and you can select MLA, Chicago, or whatever style you need. I make use of this site often ~ it makes bibliography-writing so much easier!

Google Scholar
This is a Google search engine specifically for finding articles, journals, and scholarly information. I use it all the time to find articles and books on my topic when researching for a paper. Next time you're doing research, try using Google Scholar as your starting point ~ it's amazing!

JSTOR
JSTOR is a digital library full of academic journals ~ and if you've never heard of it, you really need to check it out! I began using it my freshman year, and I've not done one research paper since then without it. In fact, the majority of the articles I use as sources for my research papers I find on JSTOR. It really is an excellent database with easily accessible articles and journals, and I highly recommend it.

What websites do you use for school? Do you have any recommendations?

Sincerely,
~Stephanie

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March Recap and April Goals

Happy April, everyone! I know I say this every month, but March really flew by, and here we are already almost a week into April! For me, April is my last month of school, which I can hardly believe. (Guys, my finals start at the end of this month...) So I anticipate April will be an intense but exciting month!

As always, with a new month comes a new set of monthly goals. I mentioned in this post and in this post, 2016 is all about focus for me, and about delighting in being a student. To help myself grow in these ways, I'm setting concrete, baby-steps goals for myself in some key areas of my life. This includes monthly goals, which I share here on the blog, partially to hold myself accountable and also in hopes that it will encourage you in your goals too!

Without further ado, here is a recap of how I did on my March goals, as well as my goals for April.


M A R C H  R E C A P

Academic Goal: Work on, write, and finish my thesis.
GUYS I DID IT! In fact, I just turned it in yesterday! After 12 weeks, 1 poet, 15+ books, 12+ articles, 20 pages, and 6530 words, oh how good it feels to be done. My "Junior Poet" thesis is entitled, "The Coexistence of Catholicism and Protestantism in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne," and I'm quite proud of it. Now all that's left to do is present it in 2 weeks before a panel of literature profs, which sounds intimidating, but honestly, the worst part (the paper-writing) is over! Yusssss. 

Personal Goal: Try a capsule wardrobe.
With the exception of when I was home during spring break and Easter break (when the weather was quite different), I kept up a capsule wardrobe for all of March ~ and overall it was a really fun and successful experiment! The clothes I chose for my capsule wardrobe are all very much my style, and it's been fun finding more ways to mix and match them. I plan to do some capsule wardrobe posts here on the blog in the near future!

Spiritual Goal: Finish out Lent strong and celebrate Easter.
Check! I stayed strong with my Lenten sacrifices and resolutions to the end, and had a wonderful Easter at home. I was able to attend all the Triduum services at my home parish and spend lots of time with my immediate and extended family ~ so overall it was a lovely Easter!

A P R I L  G O A L S

Academic Goal: Catch up - and stay caught up - on readings.
While I was finishing up my Junior Poet thesis, the work for my other classes (especially readings) fell to the wayside a bit. But now that my biggest, most daunting, and most time-consuming project of the semester is done, I can focus all my energy on my other classes. So in the remaining weeks before finals, my goal is to catch up on all my readings, and stay on top of them for the rest of the semester.

Personal Goal: Get a summer job lined up.
My hope is that the place I worked at as a seasonal worker over Christmas will hire me back, so I'll be giving them a call soon to see about that. If that doesn't work out, it'll be time to start looking elsewhere. I'll only be able to work for about six weeks this summer, because I'll be traveling for a large part of the summer (I promise to write about my exciting trip on the blog at some point!). But I'd like to make the most of my short amount of availability work-wise!

Spiritual Goal: Read at least one book for spiritual reading.
I have sooo many spiritual books that I want to read, or that I need to read for my aforementioned trip this summer. But, being a slow reader as well as a student approaching the end of the semester, I need to take baby steps as far as outside reading goes! So this month my goal is to read "Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves" by Jason Evert.

How did you do on your March goals? What are your goals for April?

I joined in on the With Grit & Grace link-up for this post:


Sincerely,
~Stephanie
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